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This bottle was bought and opened in November of 2011. By July of 2012 this bottle really oxidized – most noticeably in the finish. Again, I offer this review to bolster the consistency of Laphroaig 10yo. “But Nock why only rate this guy at 86 when you seem to love it so much?” Great question. Mainly because I value 5 categories, and I try and assess each one honestly on its own merit. And to be honest Laphraoig 10yo is not all that well balanced or complex. And while I enjoy the nose, taste, and finish I have to admit that several other distilleries on Islay have it beat week in and week out. This malt is a classic example of a dram that “drink better then it scores” in my book (thanks @paddockjudge for the topic!)
Nose: Wet earth and moss. Peat, iodine, and smoke. Sea spray, oak, and salt. This is a wonderful nose that continues to grow on me. It is every bit as earthy and dark as the Lagavulin 16yo, but with more antiseptic and medical gauze. There is a ton of ozone to go along with the peat and earth - rich dark peat. While I recognize that this is not as mysterious and complex as the Lagavulin I still really enjoy this nose. Where the Lagavulin is wave after wave of complexity this is a standard solid nose of “earth peat.”
Taste: The oak is slightly bitter, but there is peat to ease your sorrows. Smoke, oak and salty cod also linger in the mouth.
Finish: (early experience) Nice big blast of peat and oak. The oak is slightly bitter and the peat ever so slightly sweet. Both seem to keep the other in check. Lovely long peat and smoke finish. This is what it tastes like to sit on the beach of the Atlantic ocean in the late fall, and watch the tide come in.
(Late July) More then a bit oxidized. It almost has a bit of red wine tannin to it. After the peat and fire there are bitter lemons and burnt orange peals.
Balance, Complexity: (early experience) Not terribly complex. There are things from the doctor’s office and things from a beach bonfire. Not the most balanced malt, but I do like the balance between the bitter and sweet. Not too much of either; a little of both.
(Late July) This is a difficult call given the heavy oxidation in this bottle. It obviously is not what it was. The nose and taste were great but the finish was all off. What do you say? Interesting complexity on the nose and taste. Also complex on the finish but in a bad way so the balance is way off?
Color, Body, Aesthetic experience: Nice consistent golden amber (thanks E-150 . . .) and huge full body. I like this label a lot – the Crest of the prince of Wales and the green bottle shape. I dislike the all white and the extra date sticker near the neck.
Conclusion: I have scored this specific bottle 4 times over the course of about 9 months. The first three scores were all spot on 86. The final score in late July (with the off finish) caused the score to fall to 81. After that score I poured the remaining three fingers in to my Old Bastard Blend bottle. For the purposes of this grade I am going to drop that final score and simply give you the score for the majority of the life of this bottle. I think it fair given my consistent grade of 23.5 (which translates to 86.25 or just 86). Laphroaig is consistent. My only issue is that sometimes, with too much oxidization, the finish can turn even more bitter and loose its balance. Still, I will never be without a bottle of this in my cabinet.